Larry’s review published on Letterboxd:
80's Resurrection Sunday!
You're in Antarctica at a research base. It's 40 below outside. Not a light, or soul for miles. And inside, something is hiding. Something from another world. And its hostile. Its not hiding underground, in a closet, or out in the snow. Its hiding inside one of your friends. Its replicating him. All the corridors are still. The common room silent. Everyone is back in their own dim lit rooms. The power goes out in your room, and your heart starts racing. You get up to go investigate and you see a silent figure guide past your open door in the dark hallway. You freeze. Call out. No answer.
What do you do?
Its moments like these that make director John Carpenter the King of atmospheric horror. Even some of his more unfavorable films create more atmosphere that some directors never achieve in their whole careers.
The Thing is no exception. This film is short on outright scares (the one I described at the beginning is one of the standouts) but instead pulls its strengths from its setting, and its classic Carpenter atmosphere that chills to the bone. I think a good horror film shouldn't solely rely on scares but should also capture the extreme paranoia that comes with these stressful situations. We can jump at the monster but if the characters don't believe in the monster, and the monster doesn't completely tear down everything they previously thought to be true, why should we as viewers see it as anything more than special effects on a screen? We have to believe the monster as both a physical and psychological threat. This is achieved by strong performances and even stronger writing.
This is why The Thing is one of the best horror films ever made. There are almost no weak points in this film; its all sealed up tight. Its just you, the characters, and the thing. The cast is spearheaded by possibly one of the manliest characters in world cinema, R.J. MacReady; the burly and magnificently bearded Kurt Russell. His strong will and fierce leadership is exactly what these poor souls need in this situation. Stranded without escape in possibly the most bleak, depressing and naturally hostile place on Earth, burrowed in with a shape shifting carnivorous extraterrestrial can eat away at even the strongest men. The ever increasing dread of the situation, punctuated by the desolate environment makes for one of the most psychologically and physically distressing horror films ever made. The low thumping tones of the soundtrack pair perfectly with the lonely shots of the inner corridors of the research base, as well as the exterior shots that really solidify how alone these characters really are. Not just literally as well, but figuratively. When you are trying to survive a situation like this, you are just a one man team. No one is your friend. Assume that everyone is your enemy.
This mindset sends some of the characters in The Thing over the edge, and makes for some uneasy scenes. The plot continues to surprise me and every time I watch it I catch a new little detail. This film is fucking rich. One of the most rewatchable films of all time. I wish I could see this again for the first time.... I wish I could see some of those amazing practical effects again with young eyes. But I can't. John Carpenters horror masterpiece will continue to have one of the most amazing displays of old school practical effects around. The monster effects are grotesque, juicy, and twisted. They made me physically uncomfortable as a kid. Like I wanted to look at them closer but I didn't. Now I can't get enough of them.
I think that The Thing is basically a perfect film. It gets horror done right, its got great characters, great sound design, great effects, great photography (chilly blues and harsh reds mix and match to make a cool, bloody nightmare) and great directing.
It turns the beard scale up to 10 and the horror up to 11. The coolness went off the charts and has yet to be found. Despite its cold, creepy nature, The Thing is a perfect film for any time, place, location (maybe not Antarctica) and mood. Like the alien in the film, it will take a hold of you and have you at its will no matter what situation you're in. Once it starts you can stop it.